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  1. #1
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    Thumbs up How to "verify" that all your personal files are deleted before selling your laptop?

    My dad called tonight and said he took my sister's Asus laptop to a computer store and asked them to make sure all of her files are removed before she sells it. He wants to know, "How to 'verify' that the store did it correctly?". Ie. When you get home with the laptop, how do you make sure none of your files can be retrieved by a savvy computer user? (I asked him if they were doing a 'clean install'. He didn't know. He said the work order just said "reinstall OS and make sure all personal files removed". He's just worried about ID theft.
    If anyone knows of a "sure-fire" way to double-check that the store does it the right way, please let me know.

    I asked him for the specs, (not sure how much it matters in this case), but here's all he knows. (as laptop is at the store, now):
    Asus laptop. Purchaced in Italy (thus "Italian model" keyboard-has 3 extra keys). Windows 7-home premium- 64 bit. 8 GB RAM. 640 GB hard drive.
    (she doesn't even know the model number-sorry). But not sure it really matters, here.

    I appreciate any help. To relieve his anxieties, as he picks it up on Tuesday (Nov. 6).

    Thanks,
    scottt331

  2. #2
    Member Spyware Fighter DonnaB's Avatar
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    Hi scottt331,

    If they perform a clean install the drive will be nuked and repaved, as we say. Meaning that the HD was written over with all zero's which destroys all data on the drive, not just write over the data.

    If the laptop had a recovery partition, he could have just set it back to factory condition by pressing on one of the F keys (I believe to do this on an ASUS it is the F11 key) and that would reformat back to factory condition and would have been sufficient as well and it's free!

    Donna
    If you think you might be infected with malware or have recently cleansed your computer of malware without the help of an expert, please read and follow the instructions in How to Start Removing Viruses and Spyware from your Computer. This can alleviate time consumed in trouble shooting your current computer problems.

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  4. #3
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    Hey DonnaB, Thanks so much for the timely response. I'll forward this information on to him. Actually I think this (the 2 options you mentioned), was part of his question. As he told me they would do a clean-install but charge him 30.00. Or they would do it "another way", "that had to do with the Asus button", for free. (And it sounds like the latter, is exactly what you are
    referring to. So it sounds like "either" route is just as good?? Or maybe I should pose his specific question, "Are both routes just as good?". I know you said the first route would nuke it.
    And that the second route would be sufficient. I'm not trying to make this difficult, just trying to acurately answer his question (to which I did not know the answer). If you can clarify this one point would be very helpful, as actually, I think that was his (specific) question. Thanks so much. scottt331.

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    Member Spyware Fighter DonnaB's Avatar
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    Hi scott331,

    You're welcome!

    "Are both routes just as good?"
    Yes. Both routes are just as good though the latter is free so it is actually better! I like free!

    When you press the F11 key at boot you're actually wiping the memory and restoring it to its factory settings which is an effective way of turning the computer back into a clean slate as it was when it was first taken out of the box. This deletes all files and programs that have been added to the system since you've had it while also reinstalling any of the factory installed software, which we consider bloatware, that may have been uninstalled by choice of the owner.

    Make sure that your sister has all her personal data removed/backed up because it will be lost during this process, never to be accessible again.

    Or they would do it "another way", "that had to do with the Asus button", for free.
    If he has the tech shop do this, make sure they mean free. There might be a service fee for their time involved that is included that was not mentioned. Personally, I don't know of any shop that will do this without charging a service fee.

    Donna
    If you think you might be infected with malware or have recently cleansed your computer of malware without the help of an expert, please read and follow the instructions in How to Start Removing Viruses and Spyware from your Computer. This can alleviate time consumed in trouble shooting your current computer problems.

    If your problem is solved, here's how to say thanks!

    Very proud parent of a U.S. Navy "CB"



    "People may forget what you say,
    People may forget what you did,
    but People will never forget how you made them feel!"

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  7. #5
    Member Digerati's Avatar
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    If they perform a clean install the drive will be nuked and repaved, as we say. Meaning that the HD was written over with all zero's which destroys all data on the drive, not just write over the data.
    Umm, no sorry but that is not correct.

    A clean install does NOT overwrite anything, except the disk sectors the new files are installed to. The file tables for all the old data is cleared so it is impossible for "normal" users to accidentally find any of the old data. And certainly as more and more programs are downloaded and installed, and the computer is used, the remaining data will be overwritten too.

    But make no mistake - unless the drive is "wiped" any old data is still there. So typically a "wipe" program like Eraser is used on drives before disposal to ensure nothing is left behind. ONLY a "wipe" program accesses each and every byte on the disk to write a series of 1s and 0s to that sector, thus ensuring there is no residual, recoverable data left behind. Deleting files (or reformatting the disk) does NOT actually delete any file - it just marks the space as free (or ready to receive data). This is why file recovery (and even unformat) programs work.

    And note too that factory restore/recovery programs do not wipe the entire drive either. Even most reimaging programs don't overwrite the entire drive.

    The question was, how do you make sure none of your files can be retrieved by a savvy computer user? Savvy computer users are the problem - or at least the low-life scumbag savvy users are. There are many disk diagnostic programs out there that allow users to look at each byte and sector on a drive, and recover any data from there. Most are used for legitimate reasons (data recovery due to disk failure, for example) but they can be used for nefarious deeds too.

    Without calling the shop to see what they did (assuming you could believe them) you have two options to ENSURE nothing personally identifiable is still there.

    1. Start over by "wiping" the disk then reinstalling Windows, all the drivers, all the security, etc.

    or

    2. Download and install CCleaner - Slim Version without toolbar (scroll down). Click on Tools and select Drive Wiper, and on the Wipe drop down menu, select "Free Space Only" and select the drive or drives you want to wipe. Technically 1 pass is probably enough - but being a bit paranoid, I go for 7 passes. 35 passes is overkill - even for me.


    For sure, Option 2 would be my recommendation.
    Bill (AFE7Ret)
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  9. #6
    Member Spyware Fighter DonnaB's Avatar
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    Hm. I didn't explain myself very well, did I? Thanks Digerati for correcting me.

    From my experiences, if you take the laptop to a tech and they perform a "clean install" they will wipe (nuke) the drive prior to reinstalling (repave) the OS to the drive. Or at least they should.

    When I reinstalled my sons OS after a Zero Access infection, I used the recovery disks and when I got to the screen that prompts for language preferences, I pressed Shift + F10 which brings up the command prompt window with the prompt X:\Sources. You then type in DISKPART and hit enter. Next you type list disk and hit enter again. If you only have 1 physical disk it should be numbered Disk 0. Type select disk 0 and hit enter. Type clean all and hit enter - this will completely wipe every sector of the disk and is more thorough than a reformat, which is when you access the recovery partition. It may take a few hours. When finished, type exit and hit enter. Type exit and hit enter once more. That will take back to the first screen, the language preferences screen. Now proceed with installation as normal.

    You will need your legitimate OEM key to activate.

    I wouldn't attempt the above if you don't have the disks and you are accessing the recovery partition. I'm quite sure that task will wipe out the recovery partition as well. I tried that for educational purposes and since I had the recovery disks I had nothing to lose.

    Digerati. Please correct if I am wrong.

    Another program that I have seen used to "wipe" the disk is DBAN
    If you think you might be infected with malware or have recently cleansed your computer of malware without the help of an expert, please read and follow the instructions in How to Start Removing Viruses and Spyware from your Computer. This can alleviate time consumed in trouble shooting your current computer problems.

    If your problem is solved, here's how to say thanks!

    Very proud parent of a U.S. Navy "CB"



    "People may forget what you say,
    People may forget what you did,
    but People will never forget how you made them feel!"

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  11. #7
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    Or at least they should.
    Yeah, that's the problem. And that's what you should expect if you specified to the tech you wanted all your files removed to prevent personal information getting in the wrong hands, and not just copied to a new computer, for example.
    Type clean all and hit enter - this will completely wipe every sector of the disk and is more thorough than a reformat
    No, that is incorrect and where the confusion is coming in. It does not "wipe" anything. A "clean" install simply means the install does save any user settings, profiles, downloaded and installed programs, applications, user files, network configurations or anything like that. A clean install is used only if a "Repair Install" does not work.

    The format or install may more or less "wipe" the tables (the MFT), but if the recovery/install process does not actually write data (save a file) to a specific sector on the disk, that sector is not touched at all, other than to verify good (like chkdsk). Even during a reformat, data in the sectors is not changed, unless new information needs to go there. The partitions will be lost and all the data will in small pieces (like from a paper shredder) because the tables, used to connect (map) the pieces will be changed. But you don't need a map to put a jig-saw puzzle together - just time.

    Note just filling all the free space with music files, photos or videos, deleting them, filling and deleting the space again (just to be sure) will prevent all but very well financed forensic labs and highly trained professionals from finding anything useful.
    Bill (AFE7Ret)
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  13. #8
    Member Spyware Fighter DonnaB's Avatar
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    A "clean" install simply means the install does save any user settings, profiles, downloaded and installed programs, applications, user files, network configurations or anything like that.
    Hm? I thought a "clean install" is an installation of an operating system on a hard drive that has been totally erased and the clean all command will do just that, wipe the drive of all data.
    If you think you might be infected with malware or have recently cleansed your computer of malware without the help of an expert, please read and follow the instructions in How to Start Removing Viruses and Spyware from your Computer. This can alleviate time consumed in trouble shooting your current computer problems.

    If your problem is solved, here's how to say thanks!

    Very proud parent of a U.S. Navy "CB"



    "People may forget what you say,
    People may forget what you did,
    but People will never forget how you made them feel!"

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  15. #9
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    Hm? I thought a "clean install" is an installation of an operating system on a hard drive that has been totally erased.
    Nope. Totally formatted, yes. But again a format does not go in and erase (write over) data.

    and the clean all command will do just that, wipe the drive of all data.
    Note there is no "clean" or "clean all" command in Windows. You can verify that by opening a command prompt and type clean /? and hit return. So any "clean all" command you saw came from a 3rd party application for that particular brand of notebook, or something similar. And is not common to all Windows users or all computers.

    Also, I the Erasure program I noted uses DBAN technologies, but with an easier user interface. But again, CCleaner will work fine here too.
    Bill (AFE7Ret)
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    Heat is the bane of all electronics!
    MS MVP, 2007 - 2018
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  17. #10
    Member Spyware Fighter DonnaB's Avatar
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    Hm? From my experiences:

    Several months ago, just after Golden guided/taught me just how to wipe the drive and reinstall the OS on my sons computer that was infected with the Windows 7 Antivirus 2012 rogue and ZA infection I found myself fascinated with the diskpart technique of wiping a drive so I had started a thread to learn more to help others. That thread is located here where Aaron Hulett dissected Goldens instructions to explain exactly what each step did. I have performed this "clean all" command several times on computers that were given to me which I have donated to the under privileged.

    The diskpart command line option, "clean all", can be used not only in Windows 7 but in Windows Vista, Windows XP, and the Windows Server 2003 family as well. Prior to my sons infected computer (s) I had no idea this command line option even existed.

    I tried to find the thread here at H2G where an OP had an issue from a botched upgrade from I think Vista to Win7 that worked perfectly with the clean all command line option. He ended up with a dual boot which is not what he wanted.
    If you think you might be infected with malware or have recently cleansed your computer of malware without the help of an expert, please read and follow the instructions in How to Start Removing Viruses and Spyware from your Computer. This can alleviate time consumed in trouble shooting your current computer problems.

    If your problem is solved, here's how to say thanks!

    Very proud parent of a U.S. Navy "CB"



    "People may forget what you say,
    People may forget what you did,
    but People will never forget how you made them feel!"

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